Welcome to

Retford Writers’ Workshop


Thank you to our followers – do join them.

Have a go at the triggers mentioned – many, but not all, of the works are prompted by the triggers, which are there to keep us practicing – and thus becoming perfect. (For our international followers, I do see that spelling mistake but it’s correct in English.)

Summer triggers: fun, culture, noise, craft – all generate a variety of thoughts responses and styles of writing. Have a go.

A group of around twenty aspiring writers from North Nottinghamshire all with a desire to improve their writing techniques.

We do this by sharing our work on a two-weekly basis at Retford Library, – alternate Thursday afternoons 2-4pm.

Have you got a yen to write – join us!

Some works in progress are shared on-line – on this web page.

All writing styles are used – fact to fiction, poetry to prose, short to long.

So – fortnightly

…and join us online – like, follow, and do please comment. The whole purpose is to receive constructive criticism.

Co-ordinator – Kevin Murphy kpm2@talktalk.net


Master of the Universe by Michael Keeble

A Christmas story poem from Michael

Master of the Universe

Mark’s seven figure bonus burned the pockets of his jeans
Another Aston Martin now came well within his means.
His penthouse flat deposit came from last year’s bonus pack
His options and his pension fund kept future plans on track.
“Life is good this Christmas”, thought the banker looking down
From off his lofty balcony upon the dirty town.
“Tonight I’ll worship Mammon and give thanks for all my gains
And toast the banking system in plentiful champagnes”

The night was cold and wet and grey, but Mark just didn’t care
He’d spent a fortune getting drunk and barely had the fare
To catch a taxi home to bed to sleep the night away
And dream of all the stuff to buy with his inflated pay.
The bar had closed, his friends had gone, and now he stood again
Weaving gently on the kerb of this deserted lane.
As if to make his night complete he saw with bleary sight
A taxi cab approaching him, “For Hire” sign alight.
He slumped himself into the seat and gently closed his eyes,
Opened up his eyes again and there to his surprise
Sat Jacob, friend from student days, who’d made a pile in Law
But had succumbed to early death, but now sat there before
The puzzled and bewildered Mark who couldn’t quite recall
If he had asked this ghost along, he wasn’t sure at all.
What actually was going on until the spectre spoke
And reassured his banker chum that this was not a joke
“I died” he said “before I could enjoy the fruits of wealth
“My sole concern was money; I cared not for my health
“And so it was one day as I was thinking what to buy
“The reaper came with sharpened scythe and told me I would die
“And now I am condemned to ride in this my ghostly cab
“Until I can convince one more, that life is more than grab
“Up all the money and the things that it can get.
“I sit here ev’ry Christmas but I haven’t done it yet.”
“Don’t think I’m the one to change” said Mark “what’s mine stays mine,
“And anyway I’ve set my sights upon a DB9.”

The cab came to a stop beside a place Mark didn’t know
A wasteland by the riverside where desp’rate people go.
Figures shuffled aimlessly or simply stood around
Their clothes were ragged, pride had gone; they stared upon the ground
Having seen more than enough Mark slowly turned his head
To speak to Jacob opposite but, shockingly, instead
An image of himself stared back, unwashed and dressed in rags
A bottle clutched in dirty hands, his stuff in plastic bags.
“Hi Mark” this vision said at last and took another drink
“You don’t know me yet” he said “but just in case you think
“That bankers only give it out and are themselves immune
“I’ll draw you a scenario that hums a diff’rent tune.
“Your bank collapsed from dodgy deals and you were thus deposed.
“You couldn’t pay your debts and so your creditors foreclosed
“And here you are a year ahead, you’re homeless and bereft
“You’ve taken to the bottle ‘cos there’s simply nothing left.”
He paused and stared at Mark awhile then spoke again at last
“You know they say when going up take care of those you pass
“‘cause when you’re going down you may be grateful for their aid,
“Well here I am already down and you’re already made.
“You never gave a single thought beyond your greedy self”
He winked and then ironic’lly he drank the banker’s health.
In guilt Mark closed his eyes to shut his other self away
And when he opened them again the night had turned to day
“Just a nasty dream” he thought. He was lying in his bed
But he couldn’t lose the awful feeling running through his head.
Hungover from the night before, he turned the TV on
To idly watch the news unfold but knowing all along
That Masters of the Universe like him could not be caught
By pestilence or poverty, that all things could be bought;
But then upon the screen appeared a face he’d seen before
Looking from a taxi parked before his own front door.
“I’ve come to take you back” he said “there’s very little time
“For you to make amends for greed before the church bells chime
“The blessings of the Christmastide, and peace, goodwill to all.
“Or wallow in your cosy bed and see what will befall
“You when you’re on your way to gutter land and begging in the streets
“And cardboard packing keeps you warm instead of silken sheets.”
The screen then switched to show the place the scene so desolate
That Mark had seen the night before depicting what his fate
Would be if he should not give up his greedy selfish ways;
The likelihood was that this could be how he ends his days.
What thoughts went through Mark’s mind just then will never now be known
But soon he turned the TV off and reached out for his ‘phone,
Speed-dialled the Aston Martin sales and when they came on line
“Enquiring for my order for my bright red DB9
“I’ve come to a decision and I thought I’d let you know
“That I’m cancelling the order and instead will now bestow
“My yearly bonus from the bank upon those most in need
“Christmas is a time to give and not for selfish greed.”

OBSESSION By Barrie Purnell

By Barrie Purnell

We met on a chill day in November
I was hungry, forlorn and frightened.
She offered me shelter and comfort
The bitterness of my life was sweetened.
She said come I can offer you refuge
I have an antidote here for your pain.
I will turn the light off on your nightmares,
I won’t ask you to confess or explain.

I was happy to take up her offer,
She possessed the flawless beauty of youth,
If I could have seen past that pretty face,
I may have cracked the code to her truth.
She offered me some liquid refreshment,
She told me to just drink it all up,
I didn’t know that the drink she offered
Was infatuation in a cracked plastic cup.

I drank deeply and felt myself falling,
The cup slipped from my hand to the floor,
As the smile evaporated from her lips
She said we won’t need that cup anymore.
You’ll be my partner descending to darkness,
For all my transgressions you’ll pick up the bill.
I said that I couldn’t, I said I wouldn’t,
She said sorry, but you must and you will.

I should have run, I should have departed,
For some reason I could not make that choice,
An invisible web seemed to hold me,
Spun round me by all the lies in her voice.
I had drunk from her cup of obsession,
From that moment my freewill was hers,
I became the foodstuff for her hunger,
Satisfying all her needs and desires.

She said now you must sign your surrender,
Put all of your inhibitions aside,
You abandoned yourself freely to me,
And you did it with your eyes open wide.
But she had mistaken need for desire,
My eyes too blinded by tears to see,
It wasn’t love she wanted but possession,
She wasn’t my saviour but my enemy.

She had invaded my whole being,
My mind now had a mind of its own,
Her mind was a mystery kept well hidden.
Behind the disguises that you were shown.
She let no one inside her defenses,
Never forgiving, always up for the fight,
Her guard always up never lowered,
No one really knew her but the night.

Her ears they were deaf to my protests,
Her eyes those from which tears never shed,
Her heart was like ice, only colder,
I love you were words her lips never said.
Having no moral compass to guide her,
Never driven to repay any debt,
Giving no one her heart’s secret password,
She never experienced pain or regret.

Why wouldn’t she give me my freedom?
Why did she write everything down?
Why was she always so close beside me?
Why were my arms always so tightly bound?

She was a terrorist in a black lace dress,
A switchblade hidden in her velvet glove,
Holding me to ransom for a million tears,
Stealing my heart but killing off love.
I was trapped by her burning obsession
I was desperate to leave and be free,
Whether you’re in a refuge or a prison
I’d found was only a matter of degree.

I asked my friends if they would help me,
But they said they couldn’t afford the time.
I asked for help from the arm of the law,
They said obsessive love was not yet a crime.
I asked my doctor could he prescribe a cure
For the sickness that I was speaking of,
He looked in every one of his healing books
But he could find not one cure for love.

Then I turned to my god for an answer,
I asked the Priest to take my confession,
I asked for a way out of my prison,
He said there’s no way out of obsession.
To love is one of God’s prime commandments,
Obsession’s just love by some other name,
You know love is God’s gift to all lovers
If you leave her God will know who to blame.

I was trapped and I could see no way out,
I walked to the bridge over the river,
She had consumed all of me that mattered,
There was now nothing else I could give her.
Despairing I climbed onto the parapet,
Looked down at the cold dark waters below,
When a hand tapped me on my shoulder,
It was a friend from a long time ago.

I asked her for help to find the answer
To where the antidote was hidden,
That would end my tormentor’s obsession
I’d already tried drugs, booze and religion.

She said the answer lies within yourself
It was my self-worth I had to address,
Only then could I break the chains holding me,
To one who didn’t love but sought to possess.

You told me if I broke free you’d be there,
You promised I’d never again be alone,
If I offered my heart you’d not take my soul,
I was reassured by your words and your tone.
You opened the door to my deliverance,
The vision to see through all of her lies,
I told her I would be leaving forever,
I saw the world anew through your eyes.

I told my tormentor not to follow,
If she found me there would be no reward,
Her passion had exceeded my allowance,
Her obsessive love I could no longer afford.
I could not afford all the suffering,
I couldn’t afford to live in her shrine,
I couldn’t afford all of her maintenance,
I just couldn’t afford to give her my time.

I left quickly without looking backwards,
Into your enfolding, forgiving arms,
You didn’t question me or pass judgement,
You didn’t moralise or quote me from psalms.
You saved me from obsession’s dark waters,
You gave me hope when I thought all was lost,
I was saved by your tap on my shoulder
You were my own personal Pentecost.

Maybe you don’t have all of her passion,
Or have the perfect beauty of youth,
But you have the honesty of experience,
And the matchless beauty of truth.

POPPIES by Sarah Bryn-Jones, aged 8

One from a younger Retford Writer – especially for today


By Sarah Bryn-Jones Aged 8 Yrs.

In Flanders Fields only poppies grow,
Thousands of them, row upon row.
Millions of men risked their lives
Most of them didn’t want to fight.

A lot of them died from a bullet in the chest.
I am not saying they were not the best.

In Flanders Fields people Died.
Now we visit them where they Lie.

Image result for poppies in flanders




The low rust red brick buildings crouched down into the grass,
As if apologizing for the melancholic nature of their application
The car park filled up fast. The noiseless black hearse crept in last.
I was there not from choice but to fulfill my sense of obligation.

The participants in this ceremony were born in a village,
Ten green country miles to the west, over seventy years ago.
They stood holding a folded card, on which the dead man’s smiling image
Looked back at them, as if daring them to let him go.

We sat close together. They were playing the theme
From Last of the Summer Wine as we shuffled in. It was full.
The droning eulogy and speeches were shorter than they seemed,
But, from what was audible, the dead man’s life seemed dull

This man, who lay there silently, clad in polished golden oak,
Had lost that fight that none of us can ever hope to win,
A kind and gentle man, according to all those who spoke,
For whom forgiveness was not needed as he never aspired to sin.

I sat, only half listening, as his relatives recounted his uneventful life.
The congregation smiled dutifully at some well-rehearsed bon mot.
The only ones visibly grieving were his daughter and his wife
As for myself I felt no grief, our friendship was just too long ago

He had done nothing for the world to record, or remember,
Just his wife and his child will mark where he has been.
And I got to thinking, on that cold day in September,
If the funerals of the rest of us I had now foreseen.

Did this group, all clad in somber shades of black and gray,
Come to celebrate the life just ended, or to commiserate
With his widow? They had been thinking all week of what to say,
Deciding only that he was good at football and he was never late

These people reluctantly assembled there to mourn,
Had not moved far, except for the occasional Spanish holiday.
They still lived close to the place where they were born,
They had never seen a reason why they should move away.

The careworn, life scored, faces reflected their anxiety,
Not about the uncertainty and inhumanity of world events,
But more likely from concerns of their children’s impropriety,
And how the young are all so devoid of common sense.

Wars in far-flung, foreign places with hundreds dead,
Places they could not even point to on the global map,
Were not reported in the local paper that they read,
Which devoted one full column to this one dead chap.

The rain heavy, gunmetal grey, cloud filled sky reflected our mood,
As we were unavoidably confronted by our own mortality.
It was lifted by the arrival of the urns of tea and post service food,
Helping time separated friends, cut through the funereal formality

Once we had shaken hands, kissed cheeks and reminisced,
There was little else than childhood memories that we shared.
We spoke weasel words to his widow, how he would be sadly missed,
But very soon, immersed in self, had forgotten that we cared

We recalled shared memories of childhood escapades,
Roaming the countryside, optimistic and free from fear.
With packed up lunches and cloudy homemade lemonade,
We were adventurers, with no adults to supervise or interfere.

It’s much too late now to achieve all of our youthful ambitions
All of those brave project plans which all came to naught.
No time left for us to win world-wide fame and recognition
We will only be remembered in a friend’s transient thought.

What little wealth we had struggled to accumulate
Whatever reputation we had managed to build over the years
All those efforts made to cheat time and our old bodies to rejuvenate
Would be forgotten after an indifferent eulogy and a few ephemeral tears

Soon it was time for everyone to say their goodbyes and leave.
We agreed, in life as in football, he always played the game,
And although he had been too sick and old for us to really grieve,
It was sad because, although achieving little, he was a nice man just the same

I was reminded how tenuous my hold on life had now become.
In my delusion I am younger than all those childhood friends I see,
But in reality I am older and closer to the end than some.
A tear formed in my eye, not for him already gone, it was for me.

FOREVER YOUNG by Pete Brammer

A deadly serious piece from our quip-master. How hard is your heart?


She came into the world, against her will,
In a dark and dingy room,
A dangling bulb, on threadbare wire,
Hardly broke the dismal gloom.

Alone with her terrified, teenage mum,
She lay there, between her legs,
Along with the paraphernalia,
Of needles and heroin dregs.

In a pool of blood, she wriggled around,
Reaching out, to touch a bare thigh,
For no one could save, this poor little mite,
This new born, destined to die.

Her teenage mother, so high on drugs,
Drifted off, to meet her maker,
No goodbyes, not even a kiss,
Simply destined, to forsake her

Slowly but surely, she drifted away From life,
to which she’d had clung,
The only consolation being,
Both will be, forever young.

“Suffer little children to come unto me”.
Oh how could he let them suffer?
Why couldn’t he act, before that stage?
To raise them up, from the gutter.

IRONY by Barrie Purnell

Has Barrie captured the essence of the greatest irony?


They say opposites attract
So we should have been alright.
You loved the dark, I loved the light.

You loved rock and roll, I loved jazz,
You loved late night parties, I loved bed,
You loved Poldark, I loved Father Ted.

You loved to read, I loved writing,
You loved the heat, I loved the cold,
You loved the new, I loved the old.

You were vegetarian, I loved steak,
You loved the sun, I loved the snow,
You loved the TV, I loved the radio.

But we were both self-centered,
and loved ourselves,
Much more than anything else.
Ironic isn’t it
that the only thing we had in common
Was the one thing that destroyed us?

Kings by Michael Keeble

Michael has crafted an epic poem which rewards the effort of reading – it’s a gift


When I was young I earned my keep as servant to a lord
He worked me more and paid me less than he could well afford.
I tended to his clothing and his food and to his drink,
And left him on his own a lot so he could sit and think.
He said his wealth was in his mind; a wealth you cannot hold,
But I know best his wealth was real and counted out in gold.
My wealthy lord had wealthy friends and they too thought a lot
(So much to learn when you’re a have and not a poor have not).
They’d call upon my master’s house and join him in his thought
Or study manuscripts they’d found or papers that they’d brought.
“Ahmed” they’d call (for that’s my name), “bring us some food and drink.
“We need to be sustained with wine, and sweetmeats help us think”
Of course I served my master well, I had no other choice
But none of it fulfilled my mind or made my soul rejoice.

And so these pampered learned lords would while away the day
With reading and with thinking and with nothing much to say
Until my master Melchior one day called out to me
“Go saddle up the camels; you’d better make it three.
“Victual up the caravan we’ll be away a while
“And pack a bag yourself” he said “We’re travelling in style”
That meant of course that I’d be there to dress and preen these fops
As well as feed the camels at our, no doubt frequent, stops.
Earlier that afternoon around came Balthazar
Who huddled up with Melchior to chat about some star.
Then Gaspar rushed excited in and gabbled out the news
That Dan’el and Balaam had both foretold that all the Jews
Would get a new Messiah or at least a brand new King;
That this, tied in with this new star, was really just the thing
They’d all been waiting for so long and time was now quite tight
And they must all be saddled up and set to go tonight.

Of course the preparations took me very many days
And all my lords would do at night was hang around and gaze
Up in the sky into the west and stand around like fools
Until at last I’d packed our bags and loaded all the mules.

Lord Gaspar and Lord Balthazar were very fancy friends
Who’d show off all their fine new gowns and follow fashion trends
And oh they loved their unctuants, their perfumes and pomade
Unlike my own Lord Melchior, his tastes were rather staid.
His pref’rences could trace their roots way back to times of old
Like many more before and since he kept his wealth in gold.
A mule was set aside for each of these three lords to load
With treasures of their choice alone before we hit the road.
Thus it was that Balthazar with frankincense did weigh
His mule to nearly breaking point, but who am I to say
That this was any worse than that of Gaspar who did pack
His mule with jars of Myrrh, while quite concealed inside a sack
Lord Melchior hid bars of gold and strapped them to a beast.
And thus our caravan was set from greatest and to least.
In spite of camels and of mules not one was I to ride;
My Lords climbed up upon their steeds and I walked on beside.

We travelled on at nights and sat to eat at break of dawn
And journeyed on awhile until the brightening sun had worn
A path to highest heavens then, beneath our shelt’ring tent,
We slept until the sun declined and once again had bent
His head below the earth and then we travelled on
Until the sun rose up again and all the night had gone.

Before we slept these worthy lords would check their treasure trove
Ensuring that their wealth was there and that no sneaky cove
Had dipped a thieving hand inside and scooped some myrrh or gold
Or frankincense, though truth be known they would have needs been bold
To get away with such a crime and realise it’s worth
For these lords worshipped nought so well in heaven or on earth.

And so we travelled on until the star (it seemed to them)
Rested near a little town that’s known as Bethlehem.
My lords consulted all their books, then thought and talked a bit
And came to the conclusion that considering that it
Portended a new ruler for the kingdom, then the thing
To do most properly was tell the current king.
So (after checking on their wealth) we trudged a further night
And then far in the distance and by daybreak’s softest light
Jerusalem, King Herod’s seat, appeared as silhouette
It’s mighty temple still half built, the scaffold round it yet.
The caravan is called to halt, my lords they then dismount
They talk awhile and then decide there’s time enough to count
Their wealth again, and so each bag is lifted from its beast
The contents emptied out and back from greatest and to least
And then when it’s accounted for and none has disappeared
They call me to their side and just as I had feared
They tell me they would go alone and I must guard the loot
And woe betide if any ounce or drop or strip or shoot
Should be astray when they returned from meeting with the king
And be assured that they would check by counting ev’rything.

So much for trusting me I thought. These wise old fools have need
Of simple kindly sentiments to overcome their greed.
Enough of all my bitterness, suffice to say I burned
With anger at their attitudes, but then when they returned
They checked their wealth again and finding it all there
They lay down in their tent to chat and ordered me prepare
A fine repast while they discussed the meeting with the King
Who’d greeted them all friendly like and asked them please to bring
The news of where the new King lay so Herod could perforce
Pay homage to his substitute, preparing in due course
A fitting place for him to dwell and rule the lands around,
But asked them not to tell a soul about what they had found.
Well I’m not wise or learned in books and lack the very things
You need to understand the thoughts of rulers and of kings
But nonetheless I didn’t think that any good would come
Of telling Herod what he asked; instead I just played dumb.

When night fell we were up again and following that star
A few more hours ride they said. It wasn’t very far.
Not so far on camel’s back I thought. That’s fine for them
But once more I stayed silent till we came to Bethlehem.

We came upon a humble house, on which the star shone down
The same as many other humble houses in this town.
No battlements upon its roof, no guards beside the door
And yet this was the house foretold, of that they were quite sure.
Lord Gaspar and Lord Balthazar quite lost their dignity
They climbed down from their camels and laughed immod’rately
Outside this little dwelling place wherein was meant to be
The prophesied new Jewish King that they had come to see.
Lord Melchior frowned down on them and in his quiet way
Admonished them to calm themselves; consider how to pay
The rightful homage to a King whose birth had been foretold.
His own intent was to present a humble gift of gold.
The other two could not contain their shock at this proposed
Donation of his worldly wealth and both were quite opposed
To giving up their unctuants and scents so dearly bought
To one whose humble dwelling wasn’t quite a Royal Court
They flounced and sulked and minced about; they just could not be sure,
Till Melchior with firm resolve just knocked upon the door.
Out came a lady, babe in arms, and both looked so serene
That all the lords dropped to their knees as if before a queen.
Nothing came to mind to do and nothing to be said
So I too fell upon my knees and humbly bowed my head.
As if upon a gesture giv’n or at a sound unheard
My lords arose and turned about and then without a word
Approached their mules, still laden down with what they’d valued most
Unhitched them from the caravan and led them to our host.

Each lord unslung the treasure bags to each mule’s great relief
And then to my amazement and my utter disbelief
The frankincense and myrrh and gold were laid before the Child
Who looking down from mother’s arms just raised his hands and smiled.
Well I was still on bended knee when She with holy grace
Asked me to rise and I too saw the Baby’s smiling face.
We said no more but as one man we slowly left that scene
And none of us, not even I, forgot where we had been

King Herod never learned from us where’er the baby lay
And I heard that the family left Judah on that day.
My lords still think a lot it seems and study hard to learn
But now they give away a lot of ev’rything they earn
Melchior no longer hoards his heavy bags of gold,
Lord Gaspar and lord Balthazar unlike the days of old
No longer crave their unctuants and incense as before
Though they still love their finery and keep that all in store.
Myself I still serve Melchior, but he has set me free
And when they all come round to ours I treat them all to tea.